Deltona wins fight about right to speak at meeting

Filed under DAYTONA BEACH

NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

A woman who sought to speak at a city commission meeting about a massive development plan did not have the right to be heard under the state’s Sunshine Law, an appeals court ruled last Friday.

The 5th District Court of Appeal sided with the city of Deltona, which did not allow Volusia County resident Barbara Herrin to speak during a discussion about a major development known as Farmton.

The discussion involved a memorandum of understanding that Deltona entered into with Volusia County about transportation and water issues. Herrin, who represented a group called the Edgewater Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development, Inc., alleged the city violated the Sunshine Law by not allowing her to speak.

Law passed in spring
A three-judge panel upheld a circuit-court decision in favor of the city.

“Here, the statute does not mention the right to be heard or participate,’’ the appeals court ruled. “The phrase ‘open to the public’ most reasonably means that meetings must be properly noticed and reasonably accessible to the public, not that the public has the right to be heard at such meetings.”

Lawmakers this spring passed a measure that says, in part, members of the public shall be given a “reasonable opportunity to be heard” before government boards and commissions.
The appeals court said the new law is consistent with its interpretation of the Sunshine Law.

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